Palma is the capital, and largest, city of the Balearic Islands and is located on the south coast of the island of Majorca. It has a long history, dating back to the Romans who first settled on the island, and is a major tourist destination. I visited here for four days, Friday to Monday, at peak season in August.
There are a wealth of things to see and do in Palma. For lovers of architecture, it has many historic buildings; for lovers of Spanish food, there’s always a restaurant in arm’s reach, and there is even a small beach, C’an Pere Antoni, just a kilometre away from the city. I couldn’t drive at the time and went to all my destinations either walking or by taxi and I found it very easy to get around.
There are three attractions in particular that stuck with me.
Royal Palace of Almudaina
The first attraction I visited in Palma was the Royal Palace of Almudaina. The palace is historic, being in its current state since the 13th century, but is still in use.
I didn’t know of the palace until I visited Palma and was glad I did. The building itself is very simple and distinctly Arabian-looking. The inside offers a lot of space, with significant Moorish influence. It’s not particularly big, I only spent an hour there, but there are far less crowds than the nearby La Seu Cathedral. So, if you want a quiet walk while admiring traditional Spanish architecture and some nice paintings, this is a great place to visit. A basic tickets costs €7 and children under 5 visit for free.
La Seu (Cathedral of Santa Maria)
Speaking of La Seu – a representation of Palma’s colourful history, this former Roman temple is the jewel of the city. Almost impossible to miss as it can be seen from most parts of Palma, this is considered the must-see attraction. As opposed to the Moorish influence of the palace, the cathedral is Gothic and more what I’m accustomed to seeing in the UK or other parts of northern Europe. It’s the huge, colourful stained-glass windows and towering pillars of the typical Medieval cathedrals.
It’s gorgeous to look at, and it’s certainly larger and more magnificent than the Palace, but I actually preferred the Palace a little more only because I had spent a few years living near a Gothic cathedral and was accustomed to the style. The Moorish style is slightly more interesting to me – maybe only because it’s something I don’t see in my own country. Still, it’s undeniably beautiful, and you can’t really argue with €7 for entrance.
I loved La Seu and the Palace of Almudaina, but it was on my final day that I ended up visiting my favourite attraction – the Palma aquarium. Now, I will admit my own bias, as a lover of all things from the sea, I always make sure to go to zoos or aquariums wherever I visit, but this aquarium really impressed me. My favourite parts were the rooftop garden, made to look and feel like a tropical jungle (including the humidity!), and the towering tank of my favourite aquatic animal, the jellyfish.
Here you can find a massive variety of beautiful fish and live coral in some of Europe’s largest tanks, educational exhibits and audio information for each tank, available in several languages, and even pretty good food – I’m usually disappointed by zoo/aquarium café food. Beware going during school holidays, as I did, because the crowds can be insane and the ticket price isn’t cheap at €23 per adult.
Other things to do in Palma
I would also strongly recommend taking a walk around the old quarter. Cars aren’t permitted here, so you can have a lovely stroll without traffic all around you and you can see the more traditional, historic side of the city.
There’s something for everyone in Palma, I have only outlined my own tastes but there are also plenty of places to play sport, go clubbing, see concerts etc. You would have a difficult time not finding anything to enjoy, but it is a big city and big cities always have more options. The only downside I would give to Palma is that it is very much a tourist city.
Although some quieter and more traditional areas exist, it’s a big, bustling, noisy city – and the summer months are brutal for crowds. If you’re looking for a quiet town where you can sit in a mostly empty café with only the sounds of the birds and the chattering of Spanish abuelas, this isn’t the destination for you.
I also wouldn’t recommend it for beach-seekers – there is only one very small beach close the city, and you’ll have to travel out to find the bigger, better beaches. But, for everyone else, Palma could be your next holiday destination.